One of my Twitter pals admitted today that after reading my post about Flavorpill’s awful sexist literary lists he realized there were no books written by women in his list of personal favorites. I pondered how to respond to this in 140 characters which made my brain hurt. So I retired to the LaZGrrl to read Fables Vol. 9: Sons of Empire, eat some caramel coated crack, and pondered how best to respond.
Since the list that put me over the edge last week was 10 essential books from the last 25 years and because commenter Travis insinuated that to include more women on that list would mean including “lesser works,” I’m offering up this — 6 essential books from the last 25 years written by women that deserved to be on that shitty Flavorpill list. For your reference these are the 10 books that made Flavorpill’s list of “books that have found a place in Generation Xís common culture:”
The Road by Cormac McCarthy; Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk; The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz; The Beach by Alex Garland; White Teeth by Zadie Smith; Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace; The New York Trilogyby Paul Auster; A Million Little Pieces by James Frey; Enderís Game by Orson Scott Card; and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.
Geek Love by Kathrine Dunn
To me this is the quintessential novel that defines the GenX aesthetic. Weird, I know. You think it’d be Generation X by Douglas Coupland, but that feels really dated now and Geek Love is timeless. On its surface it’s a story about a family of circus freaks but when you get down to it about society, religion, the search for something genuine, and loving yourself despite your freakiness.
Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
This is simply the most beautiful love story I’ve ever read. But it’s more than that, Winterson’s inventive storytelling (she never reveals the gender of the narrator) makes this a bit of gender-bender that aligns quite well with GenX’s “common culture.”
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Set in a not-too-distant dystopian future, the United States is taken over my a conservative, theocratic government that strips women of their rights and money and forces them into one of three roles: chaste wife, housekeepers, or reproductive handmaids. The book is eye-opening and terrifying. It surprises me not at all that a lot of men forget how fucking awesome this novel is. I include this book because as a generation, X struggles with the third wave of feminism and what it means to be a feminist.
The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken
I include this not just because it’s in my personal top 10 all-time favorite books, but because it’s really fucking good. A little bit of loneliness, a little bit of bitterness, and a whole lot of longing — aptly described this book about a giant and the “spinster” librarian who loves him and our generation.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
This one strays a bit from my weird GenX-like criteria because this story of a freed slave haunted (figuratively and literally) by her years spent in slavery is one of those “important” books that everyone (of all generations) should read. I’m just lucky that it was written by a woman within the past twenty-five years. (though I just have to say that The Bluest Eye is my favorite book my Toni Morrison and another that makes my personal top 10 of all time list. However, since it was published in the 70s it doesn’t fit the criteria of this list).
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The struggles of being a mother and a career and loving someone who has done something absolutely heinous. This controversial novel by Lionel Shriver (yes she’s a woman) is a tour de force in the power of point of view and forgiving the demons that haunt us.
Who would you include?
Can’t disagree with any of your choices, Atwood does the best wicked woman (and I’ve never read Winterson). I would like to offer for consideration,– Anne Lamott, A.M. Holmes and/or (gasp) J.K. Rowling.
Pauline Kael, For Keeps. Tarentino has credited her criticism as a major influence on his film making and, if I’ve got my dates right, you can’t get much more Gen X than that. And i’d also toss in Helen Simpson’s Hey, Yeah, Right, Get A Life. (I think it was Getting A Life in this country–I liked the British cover better.)
Kevin, is that the Kael book David & DFW talk about endlessly in Although Of Course?
I was thinking fiction, but YES, Pauline Kael’s impact is enormous. I haven’t read For Keeps but I believe she pulls a lot from her 5001 Nights at Movies.
My bias is always toward fiction because I don’t read a lot of non-fiction.
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. Louise Erdrich
Poisonwood Bible. Barbara Kingsolver
Grass Dancer. Susan Power
Jodi,: I don’t remember them mentioning a specific work, but For Keeps is sort of her Greatest Hits. Great title, too.
I really loved a handmaid’s tale. And then a friend of a friend worked for Atwood for a summer. And then she came into a store my brother was working at. While I’m normally not one to judge a book by the author’s character, the way M.A. treated those she found “beneath” her was…. framkly… a little disgusting. I’ve read the books since, but not in the same way.
It doesn’t quite make the cut-off – it’s 31 years old, but Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is still one of my all-time faves.
Great list! My FBOOT (favorite book of all time) is Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, where an eclectic group of Jesuit priests and intellects travel to a nearby planet to meet a newfound sentient species (kangaroo-like). They meant no harm… And there’s a sequel, Children of God, even better. Her other books are also terrific, and the next one due out is re: Doc Holliday.